Professor Kancha Ilaiah is one of the well-recognised academic personality even among non-academic circles of India, and that too in particularly in the South Indian Telugu region, for close to two decades from now. He has been in public life for more than 30 years as part of various activities like human rights issues, Naxalite movement, debates over caste-class articulations, etc. But, his prime focal venture upon the problems related to ‘caste’, from various vintages as a writer and verbal articulator made him acquire a sudden representative base among different sections of India and abroad too. The sections which recognised him concerning his articulations on ‘caste’ issues are also well divided in having their opinions either in support or in against of him.
One of the Prof Kancha Ilaiah’s work produced and published in the form of ‘Why I Am Not A Hindu?’ during the later part of the 1990’s decade made him acquire unprecedented popularity even among non-academic circles. This work attempted to theorise ‘Dalit-Bahujan’ ideological base for political emancipation and recognition. Though this volume’s content made him gain unprecedented popularity even among the academic circles; there were a few among academic circles who considered this volume’s articulation as incoherent. Among such academic critics, only one academician’s professional review of ‘Why I Am Not a Hindu’, is well received by certain quarters of the academic world. D R Nagaraj produced this professional critique, and titled it as ‘The Pathology of Sickle Swallowing’. This review is part of a D R Nagaraj’s volume ‘The Flaming Feet and Other Essays: The Dalit Movement in India’. In this professional academic examination, D R Nagaraj pointed out an incoherent way of looking at and theorising Dalits and Bahujan’s as a coherent section vis-a-vis other upper castes like Brahmins, Vysya’s, etc.
In due course of time, the criticism of D R Nagaraj and others who have been subscribing to the incoherent way of looking at Dalit-Bahujans’ as a homogenous section vis-a-vis against upper castes also started to gain currency. Towards this end, the atrocities committed by Bahujans’/OBC’s against Dalits in various forms got well reported and established!! Thus, the attempted way of Prof Kancha’s synthesised Dalit-Bahujan as a coherent section against the upper castes of India started to get debunked to some extent.
Meanwhile, due to widespread gained popularity on account of sensational ‘Why I Am Not A Hindu?’, Prof Kancha’s activism ventured into various other domains of mainstream society and polity. He became a leading recognisable face of national and international media, civil society organisations, human rights forums, etc. His writings started to circulate well in the public media sphere in the form of newspaper articles, in a few leading national English dailies for a quite sustained duration.
During this same phase in the Indian polity, the Hindutva political outfit Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was acquiring ascendence in various forms and started to successfully run a coalition government under the Prime Ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As a result, Prof Kancha begun to express his anti-Hindutva, anti-upper caste stands & modes of upper ranks exploitation, lower castes subordination and exploitation, etc. in the newspaper articles. This regular appearance of him in the mainstream media coupled with his consistent involved political activism in various forms made him a limelight personality.
The acquired fame of Prof Kancha, his produced and projected literature, arguments, rhetoric, etc. generated, nurtured, developed and spread anxieties among the upper castes and even among the Bahujan’s. These sections started to feel threatened and saw the rise of Dalit-Bahujan ideological orientation as a threat to their existence, domination and comfort in the mainstream Indian society. Thus, as an academic Prof Kancha Ilaiah with his regular writings in the mainstream media against Hindutva, upper castes, etc. started to create anti-Dalit Bahujan section, in a renewed fashion.
Same time, a few ranks, mostly, Dalits across India, especially in the South Indian Telugu region began to embrace his verbal and vocal articulations and writings!! All this indicated that within the constructed and projected section of ‘Dalit-Bahujan’, only a significant section of Dalits started to embrace openly and widely Prof Kancha Ilaiah’s ideological orientation. And, a particular part of mainstream Indian society also commenced to perceive him as a ‘Dalit Ideologue’ only, by keeping aside his Bahujan/OBC leanings.
On the other side, the Bahujan’s/OBC’s proven to be foot soldiers of the Hindutva identity, by becoming an influential vote bank; and as a ferociously wishing sect to see Hinduness in various walks of life and society.
Form this entire vantage point onwards; how Prof Kancha developed an image of pro-Christian should be ascertained?!
One of the prime focal centres of arguments in Prof Kancha’s writings is; that the Hindu religion is a ‘spiritual fascist’ sect. Here Hindu religion was seen and shown as a Brahmanical disorder by him and projected in the same manner in his writings. Thus, in his opinion, the Indian society over the years is infected with Brahmanical spiritual disturbances, and the large chunks of Indian masses like the upper castes, OBC’s, etc. are under Brahminical spiritual fascist orientation, without their knowledge and escape possibilities. Having observed so, Prof Kancha started to compare various Hindu / Brahmanical Gods and Goddess on one side. And, on the other hand, he also began to examine Hindu Gods and Goddess with different Christian and Islamic spiritual sect.
Towards this end of comparison, he, on various points of occasions expressed an inclination towards Christian faith and belief, as a liberating, egalitarian and humanitarian force. All this indicated that he had been a vocal opponent of Hindu/Brahmanical religious order. But, saw conversion to other religions like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. as a source of liberation. Unusually, he sounded as much inspired towards Christianity, its values, achievements, etc.
In this direction, he even maintained a few good contacts and relations with quite a few non-Hindu / non-Hindutva / non-Brahmanical leaders and organisations. On the other side, a few Hindu / Brahmanical groups and leaders; started to report and accuse that a few Christian leaders and institutions are well interested in the articulations of Prof Kancha Ilaiah, to encourage religious conversions from Hinduism to Christianity!!
Thus, the open vocal position and articulations of Prof Kancha Ilaiah against Hinduism / Brahmanical religious order came as a handy source to the Hindutva forces who have been attempting to consolidate their base by showing the religious minorities as a threat to the national security, Hindus unity and prosperity.
Towards this end, at times, a few Hindu organisations / Hindutva sections, etc. even accused Prof Kancha Ilaiah as an agent of Christian religious conversion plans and having hand-in-glove relations with foreign Christian conversion forces. By making such politically motivated statements and propaganda, various Hindutva sects, organisations and individuals have been focusing on creating a panic among the more extensive Hindu section and wishing to consolidate vote bank for electoral gains, in favour of BJP.
But, on the whole, the fact remains entirely different; that Prof Kancha Ilaiah never converted to Christianity or any other non-Hindu religious orders. And, he never expressed his desire and inclination to turn from Hinduism to other religions like Christianity.
A few academicians, progressive civil society organisations and activists, have viewed, regarded and considered Prof Ilaiah’s writings and speeches as a mere initial expression of comparison of Hindu / Bhramanical order with other foreign religious laws like the Christianity / Islam, etc. And, such writings and speeches of feelings, in a few academicians view, lacked scholarly depth, from various vintages.
Towards this end, the Bahujan Students’ Front (BSF), University of Hyderabad organised a debate between Prof Kancha Iliah and Prof Arun Kumar Patnaik on August 06, 2015 stands vindication. This discussion got hosted in the wake of a controversy racked by the Hindutva forces over one of the Prof Kancha Ilaiah’s article in a Telugu newspaper daily, Andhra Jyothi. This debate’s shrouded titled was marked as ‘Future of Social Science and Perils of Hindutva’.
In this debate, Prof Arun Kumar Patnaik found fault with Prof Kancha Ilaiah’s line of synthesis against Hindu religion, Hindu Gods, Hindu Goddess, Hindu mythology, etc. Prof Arun felt that Prof Kancha Ilaiah had been failing to recognise dual and multiple versions and meanings in Hindu mythology and other religions like Christianity. Having failed so, in the opinion of Prof Arun; Prof Kancha Ilaiah lacked comprehensive reading and understanding of various texts, dimensions and discourses. All this indicated in the view of Prof Arun; that Prof Kancha Ilaiah has had inclined towards a linear path of analysis, which is wrong in rational discourse. But, in this debate, Prof Kancha justified his line of synthesis, arguments and activism from ‘personal experience perspective’.
On the whole, the Hindutva forces activism and accused propaganda against Prof Kancha Ilaiah as an anti-national, threat to the Indian national Hindu identity, etc. are well received and believed at times, due to a sporadic rise of specific sensational issues.
Towards this end, Swami Paripoornananda’s accusation of Prof Kancha Ilaiah as a foreign Christian forces agent, be seen. Such an allegation of Swami Paripoornanada against Prof Kancha Ilaiah appears; as believed by a large proportion of the population. Swami Paripoornananda made this charge against Prof Kancha Ilaiah in the wake of racked controversy by the Telugu Vyasya community over Prof Kancha Ilaiah’s book against Vyasy’s as ‘Social Smuggler community’.
Sadly, as per many observations; Prof Kancha Ilaiah, though not a convert to Christianity and not having such a wish to convert to Christianity as of now, is failing to negate and debunk such compelling allegations of the Hindutva forces!!
Note: It would be better if one can read this article after going through extensive Hindutva sections propagation and accusations against Prof Kanha Ilaiah as a Christian conversion forces agent or concerning such allegations.